WHEN SERVICE MEN COMMIT CRIMES

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There is urgent need to weed out criminals within the security agencies

The Department of State Services (DSS) recently raised the alarm on influx of small arms and light weapons into the country and declared that some service men, cultists and armed robbers, now wear uniforms to legitimise their nefarious acts.

The DSS Director of Operations, Godwin Eteng, who spoke at a public hearing in the House of Representatives, lamented that staff recruited into the armed forces and other security agencies of government are selling arms to bandits thereby worsening the national security challenges. Eteng further recalled that in an armoury belonging to one of the armed forces, new pistols with quantities of ammunition got missing even though the armoury was never burgled.

As scary as those revelations were, they appear to be the new normal as hardly a day passes when some personnel of the military, police or security services would not be involved in alleged heinous crime. There are several reports of policemen employed to protect the lives and property of the citizens compromising their responsibilities by opening up their armoury to those who pick the gun against the state.

More recently, a police sergeant at Oworo Police Division, Lagos and a retired Assistant Superintendent of Police were arrested for armed robbery. In many of the states where kidnapping has become a daily trade, citizens are accusing the police and other security agencies of compromise.

When the alleged kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, aka Evans, was arrested earlier in the year, it was discovered that he had accomplices within both the police and the military. An army lance corporal was alleged to have received various sums of money in three instalments of N2 million, N1.5 million and N3 million from Evans as his share of the ransoms paid by some of the victims he assisted in kidnapping. “It is a serious issue that soldiers would be supporting evil such as kidnapping,” said a statement from the Lagos State Police Command.

In October this year, three serving soldiers from 9 Brigade Military Headquarters, Ikeja and one dismissed Air Force personnel were among those arrested after a robbery operation. The serving soldiers who were arrested in uniform were reportedly handed over to the army authorities at military headquarters, Ikeja, for disciplinary action. They were tried and summarily dismissed. In the same week, a soldier who left his Division One, Nigerian Army Base, Maiduguri on Absent Without Leave (AWOL) for fear of being killed by insurgents, was arrested while waiting to deliver a stolen vehicle to another member of a robbery syndicate in Oyo State.

Across the country, the prisons where convicts and suspects are sent for punishment or custody have over the years become sources of internal security threat thanks to fire incidents, jailbreaks and armed terrorist attacks. But, as it was also evident in the 2016 Kuje jailbreak, the most dangerous development is the connivance of some prison staff in aiding these criminals to execute their evil acts with military precision.

Following the Kuje incident, 14 officers were suspended while the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Services Board (CDFIPB) approved the suspension of four senior officers. The Comptroller-General of Prisons also suspended 10 junior staff over the incident.

While we reiterate our call for professionalism among men and officers in the armed services, it is also important for the federal government to recognise that there are too many bad eggs within these services that need to be weeded out.

But much more important, what that entails is that there should be due diligence in the recruitment process so that the state does not continue to give arms to some hardened criminals who become a menace to the society at large.